Orion® TeleTrack™ altazimuth tracking mount
SCS Astro Ltd. — +44 (0)1823 665510 — was £225
Written: ~5 years ago

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There are a considerable number of observers looking for a mount suitable for a grab-and-go 'scope that a) isn't an equatorial and b) isn't a GoTo. The reasons being that an equatorial can be a chore to align for quick-look sessions, and not everyone's wild about computer-controlled mounts — even if prices of user-friendly, entry-level models have fallen to such lows that they're irresistible to novices and experienced observers alike. Fortunately, there are a some good altazimuth mounts equipped with slow motion controls around such as the Vixen Porta (see my January 2006 review in the archive), but motorised versions are thin on the ground.

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Seeing that there was a niche to fill, American-based Orion Telescopes & Binoculars have recently released the TeleTrack. This is a rather ingenious motorised altazimuth mount that has a few tricks up its sleeve. The unit is robust with a black cast alloy body with silver plastic trim that's far more stable than its diminutive stature (28x21x12cm) might lead you to believe. It also comes with its own extendible photo-style tripod ranging in height from 51 to 138cm, but if you have your own heavy-duty tripod with a 3/8"-16 fitting then this would be a better proposition for use with most spotting 'scopes. Powered by eight internal AA batteries or an external 12 volt power pack, a nine-button hand controller gives access to all the built-in functions.

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In its basic mode of operation you can slew the mount in altitude and azimuth at three different rates — Guide, Slow and Fast. These equate to 32x, 64x and 800x sidereal rate, respectively (800x sidereal = 3.33 degrees/second). The clever feature of the TeleTrack is its astronomical tracking that may be invoked by pressing the Guide and Slow buttons simultaneously. Before you can do this, however, the mount has to know your latitude. This is a achieved by a simple setup process that requires you to set an index mark against a built-in scale that doubles as an altitude indicator. The latitude setting is remembered even when you power off, so as long as you power up with the 'scope tube level facing north and the azimuth axis horizontal (a built-in bubble level helps here), you're ready to go.

The TeleTrack can handle an 80mm short tube refractor quite easily (the manual cautions against using tube assemblies heavier than 9kg or longer than 38cm), but you may not be able to slew all the way up to the zenith. The mount has a built-in Vixen-style dovetail clamp to hold the OTA, but comes with an L-bracket equipped with a 1/4"-20 adapter for smaller instruments.

The TeleTrack also doubles as a digital SLR camera platform that can slew to a predetermined sequence of so-called cruise points and automatically take an exposure with Canon-compatible units (the camera cable is also supplied). With a few minor caveats the TeleTrack does work as described. You can read my in-depth review by picking up a copy of Astronomy Now's February 2007 issue, or buy it directly from SCS Astro Ltd. by clicking here.